BADGER — Mandy Gascho shows no signs of slowing her enthusiasm for Badger, the city she has lived in for her entire life.
Gascho grew up on the northeast side of town, meeting neighbors and making lifelong friends.
“I loved every minute of it,” she said. “I remember growing up visiting neighbors for treats like cans of Squirt and freeze pops.”
Gascho recalls walking to some of the businesses located downtown, in particular, a shop called Kinda Nice.
“All the neighborhood kids would go into Joyce Olson’s antique shop,” she said. “She always gave the neighborhood kids treats. She gave us little trinkets here and there. She also made life-like porcelain dolls. She would paint them.”
As Gascho grew older, she began to realize the importance of giving back to the community she fell in love with.
Her first volunteer efforts were to help bring Badgerfest back to life after a 10-year hiatus.
“I wanted my children to have the same memories of Badgerfest that I have, so I signed myself up as well as my family to take on running Badgerfest,” she said.
Yesterday marked the fifth consecutive year that the celebration has been put on since its rejuvination.
“Our Badgerfest committee and as well as events continue to grow each year,” Gascho said.
When she’s not volunteering her time, Gascho stays busy as a mother of three and working full-time as a registered nurse at Humboldt County Memorial Hospital.
She also volunteers as an EMT for the Badger Volunteer Fire Department when available.
In January, she made Badger history when she officially became the city’s first woman mayor.
“All the elders I have asked, they said you’re the first,” she said. “I think it’s pretty cool.”
The new responsibility hasn’t come without some hardships.
“I kind of had a rough start in January,” she said.
At that time, the city needed to replace its water tower’s main stand pipe.
“We had to switch over from using the water tower to pumping through the well,” Gascho said. “That was a challenging time.”
She was grateful for the support she received from residents, though.
“The town was understanding and were appreciative of being kept up to date,” Gascho said. “To not have water, to have that threat of the water not being there when you go to turn your faucet on, is scary. You don’t always think about it because you have it every day.”
She said most of the town contributes in one way or another.
“We extremely appreciative to have neighbors that are supportive and involved in our local organizations such as the Badger Lions Club, Badger Fire and Rescue, Badger Lutheran Church, and the Badgerfest committee.”
She is continuing to develop her leadership skills.
“I have learned so much about city laws and have gone to many classes with the Iowa League of Cities,” she said. “I am learning every day. I learn something new. It can be challenging, but at the same time it’s rewarding. When someone comes to me with a concern I am not uncomfortable addressing it and I know they appreciate me. That makes it worth it.”
She has some goals in mind for the remainder of the year.
One will be replacing Badger’s longtime city clerk, Nadine Odor.
“People are anxious to get a new clerk and see who that’s going to be and get acclimated with that change,” Gascho said.
She said the city has narrowed their search down to four candidates.
The hope is to have someone hired by the end of July, she said.
Another goal will be seeing the completion of the Badger Ridge housing addition.
Phase 1 includes 16 lots.
“We have four lots sold over there,” she said. “Just looking forward to bringing in new people to the community.”
Gascho anticipates someone being able to live in a house within the addition sometime this year.
Starting a hometown pride committee is another focus.
“That’s something that’s on the backburner I want to put into place,” she said. “To have a few business owners and prior mayors to be on the committee to give us a goal and a focus on what we want to work on in the community.”
Bringing new businesses to town is at the top of the priority list, she said.
Gascho said she prides herself on communication and hopes to reach everyone in the community on current issues.
She credits her family for keeping her focused.
“My mom and dad are very supportive,” she said. “My husband, Daniel. I would be crazy without the support from my family.”
Gascho is working hard to stay balanced, she said.
“Balancing all of my work, volunteer, and family life,” she said. “I have to work on that, otherwise things fall out of place.”